The uprising against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt has left the US right wing confused and grasping for talking points: Unlike most political events, the crisis in Egypt can’t be neatly hung on one of their us-versus-them frames. Not knowing what side to take, unable to easily tell the good guys from the bad, they’ve been suddenly thrown from the comfort of certitude into a slush of self-doubt.
Should they side with Mubarak or the Egyptian people? Should the demonstrations be labeled jihadist, commie or Tea Party East? Should they attack Obama for not standing by Murbarak and “losing Egypt” (Dick Morris), or for not calling for his ouster loudly enough (Fox News contributor Ralph Peters)?
Let’s acknowledge that most of us are confused on Egypt: no one knows what will happen when Mubarak is gone, or how it will affect Israel, the region and the world. But if you’ve always shouted “USA is number one!” (and “Israel is number one-A!”), and you’ve tolerated talk of “Second Amendment remedies” against our own “tyranny” (led by a secret Muslim, no less), the cognitive dissonance has got to hurt your brain.
During Iran’s Green Revolution, less than two years ago, Republicans were livid that Obama wouldn’t intervene on the demonstrators’ behalf to overthrow the Iranian government (even to the point of demanding military action, though anybody with any sense realized that an incursion would have united all Iranians against the United States). Their line back then was 110 percent pro-democracy: "In the cause of freedom America cannot be neutral," Rep. Mike Pence essayed. Obama was a "cream puff," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher; he’s “timid,” added old “Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran” John McCain. Charles Krauthammer was boiling over: “The president is taking a hands-off attitude instead of standing, as Reagan did in the Polish uprising of 1980, and say we stand with the people in the street who believe in democracy…. it is a disgrace that the United States is not stating it as simply and honestly as that.”
Today? The GOP is all over the map: Krauthammer is griping that Obama has stated his support for the people too honestly. “It looks as if it was our decision, our pressure, and I’m not sure that we want a direct connection between our President and Egypt.” Not a word on Egypt from Pence or Rohrabacher; McCain, along with speaker John Boehner and minority leader Mitch McConnell, has decided to go along with Obama’s cautious approach.